Thursday Troubleshooter: Established dental hygienists not happy with new, bossy RDH

It's a familiar scenario. A new dental hygienist starts working in an office and brings lots of new ideas. But this RDH is being pushy and and sulky when she doesn't get her way. What can the staff do?

Oct 11th, 2018
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 10 Office Argument 1

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QUESTION: How should we deal with a young, new dental hygienist who wants to change everything in the practice? This is a productive and respectable practice. There are established dental hygienists in the office, and the new one is constantly going against the grid and the way the established RDHs do things. She is very intimidating and gets mad if things don’t go her way, sulks, and makes life uncomfortable in the work atmosphere. The doctor is a very laid back and an easy-to-work for boss, but he prefers that the staff work out any drama among ourselves. To complicate things, the new hygienist is a family member of the doctor’s.

ANSWER FROM AMBER AUGER, RDH, owner of Millennial Mentor:
I’ve experienced this situation many times in my career. Often times, people are resistant to change, especially when they are team members in the same office.

The important thing to do here is to remain respectful to the new hygienist, even when she is not always "earning" your respect. I would speak with the office manager about your concerns. Focus on how the lack of consistency in treatment provided and treatment recommended can cause patients to lose trust in the practice. Use "I" messages, such as, "I am concerned about . . .,” or "I feel like . . ."

This will help keep the conversation open and less forceful. Remember, no job is perfect and through open communication and proper leadership, this issue can be fixed.

ANSWER FROM DIANNE WATTERSON, MBA, RDH,Watterson Speaking and Consulting LLC:
The culture in every dental office is determined by management (usually the doctor) and staff members. In order for any group to function to its highest efficiency, people have to learn to adapt to the culture. When someone doesn’t adapt, conflict is sure to surface. It’s not that unusual for a new person to come into an office with new ideas. But when that new voice tries to shove her ideas down coworkers’ throats, resentment and consternation reign. The established staff may wonder, Who does she think she is?

A staff member with a mature attitude will recognize the culture and make adjustments that enable her to fit in with the existing culture. However, there’s another dimension to this dilemma, namely, this new staff member may actually behave in a negative way when she doesn’t get her way. Her behavior is very immature, and although the doctor is a laid back type, he should not allow a new staff member to upset the harmony in the practice. To ignore this problem is to risk losing valuable, existing staff members. The fact that the new staff person is a family member of the doctor’s should have no bearing on her future employment there. Doctors should never hire someone they can’t fire.

At some point, the doctor should take control of this situation by counseling the new hygienist. He has to let her know that her negative behavior is causing problems in the practice, and he must have her word that she will make an effort to adapt. If she wants to keep her job, she will settle down. Of course, she is free to leave at any time, and he should tell her that. If this staff member continues with her current behavior, termination of her employment would be in the best interest of the practice.

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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to megk@pennwell.com for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their various issues on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.


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